When I went to Fargo for Misfit Conf earlier this year, I had one of the most profound and impacting conversations with Ria and Aly on the day after it finished. We sat in Atomic Cafe, our heads spinning, and our minds trying desperately to process and absorb everything we’d just experienced.
Our discussion turned from art, to love, to passion, to what-the-hell-are-we-doing-with-our-lives, to fear, to challenge, to ideals, and covered much ground in between. Through it all, we each reached a few common thoughts.
We all agreed that we wanted to make art. Not visual art, like paintings and sculpture. Art in the sense of expressing our truth, sharing our unique perspective with the world. We wanted to create a body of work, by finding the things that we could do well, pour our heart and soul into them, and make a contribution to the world. That kind of art.
Sometime during that conversation, we were met by two other Misfits – Patrick and Francis from Ireland. Patrick is a master blacksmith who creates artworks in his forge, one of which is the Nine Irons – a traditional Irish amulet for good luck and fortune. (I thoroughly recommend you read the full history of the Nine Irons, and seeing more of Patrick’s work, by clicking here.)
Anyway, I ummed and ahhed about buying a set of Nine Irons. They were beautiful, but I had run short of cash and was uncertain whether to splash some more on what I originally thought was nice, but not necessary.
About ten minutes later, I raced outside to the nearest ATM, grabbed the cash, and bought a set of Nine Irons for myself. I realised that I wanted something physical and tangible to hold with me, that would always remind me of the time I spent in Fargo with these amazing people.
But more than that, the Nine Irons had come to represent everything Aly, Ria and I were discussing.
Products come from boring, mechanised processes, borne of homogeneous thinking and mediocre ambition. They are without soul, and exist purely to squeeze a profit from unsuspecting consumers.
Art, by contrast, exists from a place of pure creation, contribution, and soul. It is all heart, and is designed to touch, move and inspire people. Art makes the lives of the people who receive it richer, just as the act of creation makes the life of the artist richer.
Ria, Aly and I made an unofficial pact to make art, not products. To express our inner heart and soul in everything we do. To be truthful with ourselves, and honour what we are capable of by not settling for anything less than masterpieces.
The Nine Irons are an artwork. They contain heart and soul, and are custom forged and finished with Patrick and Francis’ own hands. My set of Nine Irons was blessed specifically for me by Patrick and Francis – a very spiritual, and highly emotional experience, and like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The Nine Irons represent everything I discussed and learned on that day at Atomic Cafe.
My Nine Irons are pictured above, and ultimately were my salvation during the heart-out-pouring conversation I had with Belinda last night. I talked with Bel about my fears, about my ideals, about my feelings of failure and resentment. I talked until I was empty. Then, with Bel’s help, I realised that everything to do with marketing has become a drudgery, and a chore for me. I needed to reframe it, and make it something inspiring and exciting; a true expression of my passion for my work as a family portrait photographer.
In that moment, I realised that the discussion I was having with Bel was exactly parallel to the chat I had with Ria and Aly in Atomic Cafe. I reached for my Nine Irons (always in my left front pocket) and realised that they held the key. They were the ultimate physical, tangible reminder to make art, not products.
And so, for me, marketing is now an opportunity to make art of a new kind. I am going to achieve technical mastery, and use that technical mastery to make every marketing activity an artform. Marketing my photography will now become an expression of my love and passion, an opportunity to touch, move and inspire people, and a vision of how the world could be, if we just thought a little differently.
Today was a much better day, and now I’m determined – once again – to make art, not products.